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YPSILANTI, MI-Biltmore Properties has been selected to build a $90-million mixed-usedevelopment Downtown, near Eastern Michigan University. The city has purchased about one-third of the 34 acres, and is in negotiations for the other parcels.

“We’re going into the next phase of land acquisition. We have to complete appraisals and get ready to make some offers,” Brett Lenart, redevelopment coordinator for the city, tells “The property was just a mixture of uses thatwere incompatible.”

The Water Street project property is bounded by US 12 to the north, the Huron River on the west and south and by Michigan Avenue to the east. It’s adjacent to the business district. Plans call for a 75,000-sf to 100,000-sf retail development and 25,000 sf of entertainment and restaurant space, along with about 400 units of residential housing, possibly condominiums or townhomes, Lenart says. “We’re in the process of writing the preferred development agreement, and gearing up for the public design meetings,” he adds.

Biltmore has assembled a design team of Looney, Ricks and Kiss of Princeton, NJ, Barton Associates, Hamilton Associates of Detroit and the Traverse Group of Ann Arbor. These firms will create plans that will be viewed by the public to decide the best use for the site, Lenart says. “The goal is to get mixed residential and commercial developments that will complement the downtown,” he explains.

This year will be used to gather data and create a schedule, and the design meetings will likely begin next year, Lenart says.

Biltmore beat out proposals from developers Burton Katzman and Demaria. However, Biltmore’s proposals are just temporary plans, Lenart notes. “The ideas were just based on concept plans, the public will decide what’s best,” Lenart adds.

The site, which now has some commercial properties and vacant parcels, is covered by a hodge-podge of zoning, Lenart says. Also, the infrastructure has fallen apart and lost its efficiency, he adds, and the current arrangement of properties makes it virtually undevelopable. The land will likely be rezoned through the planned unit development process.

A baseline development and other due diligence has been performed on the acquired parcels, he says.

“There have been some spots where some metals were found. The environmental cleanup will be most likely paid through a brownfield tax increment financing plan, pulling the new tax money from just that property,” Lenart says.The city’s economic development corporation has paid more than $1 million for the recently acquired parcels. Also, Ypsilanti received a $3.7-million grant from the state through the Clean Michigan Initiative program for the project.

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